Girl Push-Ups: Easy but Effective Alternatives

Push-ups are a compound exercise, which means they work many muscles at once. They are a great addition to any workout regime—whether they form a major part of that workout or you’re using them to warm up—and you don’t need any equipment or even much space to perform them. The stronger you get, the easier a bodyweight exercise becomes and the less effective it will be, but the beauty of push-ups is that they can be modified to suit your improved strength and conditioning.

Modifications can also make the standard push-up easier, so that you are building-up to it and not away from it. This is ideal for anyone to struggles to lift their own weight because there is a lot of weight to lift or because they don’t yet have the strength in their upper body.

Often referred to as “girl push-ups”, because females who have only just started working-out often struggle with upper body strength, these exercises can also be performed by anyone who struggles with standard push-ups. It’s a sexist term and it’s probably not what you want to hear if you’re a guy who sees these exercises as your only option, but there’s no shame in wanting to improve your conditioning, so don’t let it get to you.

The “Girl” Push-up

Girl push-ups, as they are known, are modified push-ups that take some of the strain off your upper body. The range of motion is similar and you will still work your shoulders, triceps and chest. You can also still reposition your hand in order to focus on these different muscle groups. The only difference is the tension that is applied to those muscles. Standard push-ups put the muscles under considerably more duress, which means they breakdown more and ultimately grow bigger, but if you can’t do a standard push-up then it’s irrelevant anyway—some tension is better than no tension.

Girl Push-ups Instructions:

  1. Lie face-down, with your chest flat on the ground and your legs together behind you.
  2. With your feet locked, bend your legs at the knee, so that the soles of your feet are facing upwards.
  3. Place your palms flat on the ground next to you with your fingers slightly part and pointing towards your shoulders. Your hands should be parallel to your chest with roughly a palms width between each hand and your chest.
  4. Contract your abdominal muscles, pulling your navel in as if preparing for a punch.
  5. Press with your palms, pushing your upper body upright until your elbows are fully extended.
  6. Slowly lower yourself to the starting position and then repeat.

It is important to complete the full range of motion and to avoid any cheat steps. The slower you perform these “girl push-ups” the more tension will be applied to your core, which is a good thing.

Just make sure you avoid:

  • Bending at the hips
  • Allowing your body to sag
  • Sticking your elbows out

When to Perform Girl Push-Ups

A push-up is great for your core, but it’s not really a complete upper body workout and there are a few areas that are neglected, especial with these “girl push-ups”. They can form a complete workout if you just want to spend a few weeks building a little strength before getting started with a proper regime, but if you want to commit right now then incorporate them into an upper body workout instead.

You can use them to warm-up, but you can also use them as a finisher, putting that extra strain on your muscles to ensure they know they have been through a good workout and to encourage growth. As a warm-up the trick is to stop before you tire yourself out, but to do enough to raise your core temperature and stretch those muscles. As a finisher, you should try to do one or two sets to failure—the point where you just can’t do anymore.

Exercises to Replace Push-Ups

If you can’t quite get through a set of standard push-ups but don’t feel like girl push-ups are challenging enough, you should try and get through as many standard push-ups as possible and just stick with it until you build strength. If it’s because of an injury or basic preference, then you can try these basic bodyweight exercises as replacements:

  • Dips: Sit on the edge of a box (you can use a foot rest or the edge of a sofa) that has a flat side and is about 1 to 3 feet off the ground. Put your hands behind you with your palms facing ahead and the heel of your hands resting on the edge of the box. Lift yourself off the edge of the box so that the weight of your legs is supported by the floor and the weight of your upper body is supported by your arms, and then gradually lower and raise your body.
  • Wall Presses: Stand up straight with your hands in the push-up position and lean against the wall. Press your palms against the surface of the wall, propelling your body back and then forward, like you would with a push-up. The more of an angle you create (the further back your legs are) the more tension you will apply to those core muscles.
  • Plank: Get into the standard push-up position, with your body straight, your toes pressed into the ground and your arms extended, and hold for as long as you feel comfortable. You can then take a break and get back into position, doing several sets to work your core. Try experimenting with arm width, spreading them further apart and positioning them a little higher to focus less on your chest and more on your shoulders and back. You can also support yourself with your elbows and forearms, keeping the body lower and focusing more of that tension on your core.
  • Stair Push-Ups: As with the wall presses above, this involves putting yourself into a vertical push-up pose, after which you simply lie forward on a flight of stairs, placing your palms over the edge of one stair and then extending your arms. Try to increase the time you spend at maximum tension, which is around halfway between full extension and the beginning pose. You can also move your hands to the stair above and below in order to activate different muscles. Just know that unless you’re wearing padded gloves, this is probably only suited to carpeted staircases. The staircase will also need to be wide enough to allow space for your elbows.

Push-Ups for Increased Strength

Even if you’re made it through those girl push-ups and have advanced beyond the standard push-ups there is still more to this exercise. It forms a major part of an athlete’s training routine for a reason and there are many ways you can make your muscles work that little bit harder:

  • Add Weight: Add some weight to a backpack, strap it on and get into that push-up pose. Just don’t let the weight sit too heavily on your lower back. There are also weight vests that can add weight and spread it out, increasing overall tension.
  • Jump/Thai Push-Ups: These explosive push-ups require you to press with force and then lift your body off the ground while you extend. If you want to show off you can add a clap in there.
  • One Hand: It’s difficult to get the balance right with these push-ups, but it makes them considerably tougher if you can get it right. Try leaning towards the side you’re using and putting your other arm behind your back.
  • Angled Push-Ups: By changing the angle of the push-up you can make it that little bit tougher. Much like the stair push-up mentioned above but instead of taking the strain away, you’re adding more. This time you need to elevate your feet as opposed to your upper body. The more they are elevated, the harder the push-up will be.

The Right Mindset

You should never feel ashamed at not being able to do a push-up. The fact that you’re actually putting yourself in the position to try and execute them is commendable enough. Everyone has to start somewhere and the hardest part of any weight loss or muscle building journey is not executing the basic exercises, but pushing yourself to make the transition into a healthier, fitter lifestyle.

So don’t concern yourself with what others might think. It’s no one else’s business but yours. Just do what feels comfortable and know that the more effort you put in, the closer you will get to doing standard push-ups.

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